“Then my friend went away to the country, and became a mother for the first time ... and lived several years with her husband. He never learned anything about that matter, and what could she say? She herself knew nothing. But her former happiness had vanished. Darkness had invaded their life—and that darkness was never dispelled.... They had no other children either before or after ... but that son....”
My mother began to tremble all over, and covered her face with her hands.
“But tell me now,” she went on, with redoubled force, “whether my friend was in any way to blame? With what could she reproach herself? She was punished, but had not she the right to declare, in the presence of God himself, that the punishment which overtook her was unjust? Then why can the past present itself to her, after the lapse of so many years, in so frightful an aspect, as though she were a sinner tortured by the gnawings of conscience? Macbeth slew Banquo, so it is not to be wondered at that he should have visions ... but I....”
But my mother’s speech became so entangled and confused that I ceased to understand her ... I no longer had any doubt that she was raving in delirium.
Any one can easily understand what a shattering effect my mother’s narration produced upon me! I had divined, at her very first word, that she was speaking of herself, and not of any acquaintance of hers; her slip of the tongue only confirmed me in my surmise. So it really was my father whom I had sought out in my dream, whom I had beheld when wide awake! He had not been killed, as my mother had supposed, but merely wounded.... And he had come to her, and had fled, affrighted by her fright. Everything suddenly became clear to me; the feeling of involuntary repugnance for me which sometimes awoke in my mother, and her constant sadness, and our isolated life.... I remember that my head reeled, and I clutched at it with both hands, as though desirous of holding it firmly in its place. But one thought had become riveted in it like a nail. I made up my mind, without fail, at any cost, to find that man again! Why? With what object?—I did not account to myself for that; but to find him ... to find him—that had become for me a question of life or death!